Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Quick hit: Single sex schooling better?

From The Press, via Stuff:
The gender gap in educational achievement could be reduced by single-sex schooling, research shows.

Traditionally, female pupils have surpassed their male counterparts at secondary school. Education experts have recommended same-sex classrooms and a Christchurch longitudinal study has reinforced their case.

A Ministry of Education spokeswoman said there were no plans to introduce same-sex classrooms as part of the curriculum, although some schools were conducting their own trials.

...Principal researcher Sheree Gibb said she had looked at the data in response to debate over the issue, "and it showed clear differences between the two school types in both the size and direction of the gender gap".

She said the study provided no information on why the gap closed in a single-sex school, but it could be because of management style, distraction in co-ed schooling or decile level.
Click through for the whole article.

My perception is that most single-sex schools that remain are in reasonably high decile areas, although may well be wrong. I went to a girls only school from Form 1 until part way through Form 6, then changed to a co-ed school for the rest of my time at secondary, so I've experienced both and can see advantages, and disadvantages, in both. For me, as a young woman who had no brothers or male cousins close to me in age, switching to a co-ed environment was helpful socially. It was also a better school academically, for a whole variety of reasons.

What say you, dear readers?


Anonymous said...

It depends on you define 'education".

A Nonny Moose said...

One does wonder if boys did better than girls at co-ed schools whether this would be an issue.

Of course, it would be an issue to us, but there wouldn't be reports and studies into it.

My experience was co-ed up to form 2, then all-girls from form 3-7. In for 6 and 7 I took one co-ed class (travelling between local schools). I believe my social development was stunted by an all girls school.

I actually like the idea of same-sex classes at co-ed schools - it tackles the problem, without inhibiting social function.

Lucy said...

I do sometimes wonder whether the difference isn't because society still views gender in such a binary fashion, rather than because of inherent gender differences.

Brett Dale said...

Single sex schools are wrong, unless as a adult a student is only going to live and work among people of the same gender.

Anonymous said...

No school suits all students. Some children will do better in single sex schools, some won't.

I went to a co-ed school - so have no experience of single sex schools, but I'm thinking about sending my daughter to a single sex secondary school (when she reaches secondary school), not so much because it will only be girls in the class room/school, rather that grammar schools at least are run by women rather than men and I think that is a great strength of those schools.

The Analyst said...

Wow! Thanks Julie. This issue couldn't have been brought up at a better time for me. As I have become somewhat obsessed about finding out/learning all there is about gender differences in learning and brain development.

I have just finished reading 'Why gender matters' by Leonard Sax. The book is based on hundrends of research on both animals and humans. The results he presents agrees with Christchurch Boys' High School principal Trevor McIntyre's point about gender differences in learning. The data he presents overwhelmingly suggest that signle sex schooling is better for both boys and girls not just for academic development, but for developing beteer social skills as well.

I am at work now. But I'll give some examples from the book when I get home.

katy said...

"One does wonder if boys did better than girls at co-ed schools whether this would be an issue. "

All the old research (Dale Spender?) used to say boys did better at co-ed schools whereas girls did better at girls only schools. When I saw this item I wondered if something had changed in society generally, or if they were just trying to whip up som hysteria ("feminazisfication of our boys!!" etc

David said...

A good friend of mine is a primary school teacher, recently I was at dinner with her & about 6 other teachers from her school. We were talking about what schools we should be sending our children to. They all agreed, for boys - single sex and interestingly co-ed for girls.

Deborah said...

I liked the comment from the principal of Shirley Boys' High:

Shirley Boys' High School principal John Laurenson said schools had different cultures, and single-sex schools were no better or worse than co-eds. "Some kids will flounder in a single-sex school."

He recommended parents visit a school and talk to the principal before deciding if it suited their children.

Country Lane said...

I can't find the research right now but a NZer did good thesis on this in the early 90's issue and came to the conclusion that educational "success" had much more to do with class than single-sex or co-ed. When he factored in socio-economic factors there was bugger all difference between boys or girls at either style school.

A Nonny Moose said...

Katy: Some people might want to have a go about the "feminazification" (rofl) of teaching, but anecdotally what has changed in the last 20-30 years?

I would say, yes, there are more female teachers - I certainly noticed it was more "difficult" for men to become teachers, especially after the Ellis trial. I'd say it also has to do with pay, flexibility, resources, and teaching being lumped into the "woman's job" area (of course we know there are great male teachers!).

Let's add in a diminishing (or changing?) ability to discipline children, along with the whole "wrapping in cottonwool" generation, and you have the psychology of teaching not keeping up with the needs of teaching. I can imagine male teachers may feel marginalized if they're not given new tools when the old ones (bluff, bravado and the back of the hand) are taken away.

I'd be very interested to know the ratio of male to female teachers in NZ now, AND how many of those women are in senior positions (Deans, Dep. Principals, Principals) versus men.

A Nonny Moose said...

PS: Also, what the ratios are in pre-school, primary, secondary and tertiary teaching. (I'd imagine men in pre-school teaching would have a LOT of stigma attached, bother it all).

beth said...

Is it just me or has anyone else noticed the 'boys in single sex schools, girls in co-ed ones' doesn't make sense?! Who are the girls supposed to be co-eding with anyway?
I'm not sure what this is like in other parts of the country, but i went to a coed high school a few years ago (in wellington) and there was a 2:1 guy:girl ratio. I don't believe the idea of boys schools being better is that new, so clearly the percieved educational abilities weren't the only factor. I wouldn't be surprised if some people were more likely to send girls to single sex schools to attempt to stop them becoming sexually active.
I haven't seen the break down on rural/urban and decile levels to see how they're affecting this, which i'd like to. Clearly poor rural schools are gonna be co-ed. Does anyone know any data from other countries?

The Analyst said...

Dr. Sax argues that co-ed schools shortchange both girls and boys to some degree, because girls and boys learn differently. There are many studies performed in both human and animals which show that various regions of brain develop in a different sequence in girls and boys and according to different time tables.

I won’t go into detail about the gender differences in the brain. But it is really fascinating.

But the book also provides data from many studies which both biological and psychological in nature.

Co-ed schools apparently also tend to reinforce gender stereotypes, whereas single-sex schools can break down gender stereotypes. There is strong evidence that girls are more likely to take courses such as computer science and physics in girl-only schools than in co-ed schools. Boys in boys-only schools are significantly more likely to study art, music, foreign languages and literature as boys of equal abilities attending comparable co-ed schools.

There are studies which also show that single-sex schools may provide better preparation for the real world than co-ed schools do. Some evidence show that boys who attend boys only schools are better listeners and don’t try as hard to seem “macho” compared with boys who attend co-ed schools.

The Analyst said...

"Clearly poor rural schools are gonna be co-ed. Does anyone know any data from other countries?"

The book I mentioned talks about this one public high-scholl in a low-income neighbourhood in Montreal. Apparently five years ago the principal reinvented this school as a single-sex academy. Girls were assigned to girls-only classes and boys were assigned to boys-only classes. Apparently since that change, absenteeism has dropped by two-thirds, scores on standardized tests have improved and the rate at which kids are going to university has nearly doubled.

Anonymous said...

On Wikipedia (the ultimate source on anything) it says that boys tend to do the same academically regardless of single-sex or coed schooling, but girls tend to do marginally better in single-sex schools.

If so, that is interesting, as I had heard previously that single-sex schooling is better for boys because they aren't getting outshone by the try-hard girls all the time, so the boys put in more effort.

Who knows? I went to a coed school, I am glad I did. I think a high decile coed school is the best environment socially and an invaluable experience.

BUT I remember hearing some of the things my friend who went to an all-girl Catholic school was learning about in school, and being rather jealous. She had 'relious class' (where they studied all the worlds religions), and she studied stuff that is of particular importance to girls (eg. important women, female saints).

On the other hand, I studied a lot of pro-female and pro-feminit stuff in high school (eg. the books we read in English) and having the boys in the class was good because we ha a variety of viewpoints and experiences.

Anonymous said...

I went to an all girls high school and I think I emerged from school socially stunted with regards to socialising with boys. But it didn't take long to catch up.

On the plus side, I think single-sex schools are beneficial for girls because the 'difference' between boys and girls is not constantly in their faces. For example, the sterepotype that boys are good at science and girls are good at, say, languages, is not something you have to deal with at a single sex school. Girls do everything and they are encouraged to do everything.

The daughter of a friend recently changed from a co-ed high school to an all girls one and claims to love it. She says that in her new school, she doesn't have to 'pretend to be stupid' which is, apparently, what girls did in her old school. Can't be sure why, but to impress the boys perhaps? If this is the case, for this particular girl (and countless others I would imagine), a single-sex school is the better choice by far.

Anonymous said...

How does single-sex schooling work for kids whose temperament, interests or learning style is not what is considered "typical" of their gender?

The Analyst said...

Interesting discussion on gender/sex differences in maths skills